tv Book Discussion on The Bill of the Century CSPAN May 3, 2014 8:45pm-9:56pm EDT
>> golden spike national historic site walking you over to where the transcom no railroad was completed. this spot right here marked by the lower wood tied is within inches of where the original ceremony was held on may 10, 1869. the post that you see right next to it was actually placed than they reserve aid the exact location of establishing the site in getting ready to set rings up so that is marking pretty much the exact location within inches of where the original ceremony was held. this is a replica of what had been lost in the 1950s san francisco earthquake and fire. all of the items brought up for the ceremony would have been brought up by the central pacific out of california. included on this guy site is a plaque that was many of the
dignitaries from that company, the central pacific in particular including leland stanford's name and the big four are all marked fair. >> one the transcontinental railroad was completed it made a major impact in the industrial development of this nation. it allowed it to grow not only in its economy and its ability to build within the nation but also to become more impactful throughout the world. by the end of the civil war it was a huge boon in helping to build the country and once they were able to settle the other areas our country was able to become, the united states would be able to become a world power.
who pulled away from the president's desk. that is what you said. would you please say more about that? >> m sure. first of all let me say thank you very much to greenlight for having this. as jared mentioned this is literally my neighborhood store. i live down the street and we are here all the time. in fact we bring our kids listen to the wonderful sounds of jared on sunday mornings so it's a real pleasure to be here to talk about this book. of horse thank you very much now now -- no. you and i have worked together on essays in the past and i have always had a deep respect for your work that way since i have been encountered it. not so much as a child because i was not reading. [laughter] but i have a deep respect for your work and it was an honor to have you read at all the book and then to recommend it so
highly. the book, when i sought out to do the book i knew there was a good story there but it wasn't clear to me especially at the very beginning whether it was much more than kind of the story about how a bill becomes a law. of course there's story behind every story but whether there was something here that could drive it along on the a narrative level. and of course there is a general story about how the build is often seen in our history is something that was almost inevitable at the time when it did pass and there were certain figures and certain forces is simply guaranteed its passage. without being a revisionist in any way i found as i got into it that there was a lot more complexity to the story and a lot of that did revolve around individual characters who pushed and pulled the bill in different ways. from both sides really and i think it ultimately made the bill better.
certainly you had the democrats opposing the bill. you also had this very nefarious organization that i talk about. it's almost comic book like. the court making committee on fundamental american freedoms is this lobbying group that was set up and was funded by a number of really far right industrialists who gave their money, gave money to a slush fund the mississippi government and then converted it into funding. yeah right mississippi state sovereignty commission which was set up to oppose civil rights legislation anywhere nationally and at mississippi so they funded this lobbying group which was really pretty well number. had a small staff but pretty well-funded and pretty sophisticated. they had ads around the country and what today would be millions of dollars in funding and ahead
of it was a former president of the bar association. so really within the legal world some powerful figures. obviously they were not successful in the end. yeah right. [laughter] i will give away the ending. the bill does pass. the bill passes. obviously we all know the bill passed but it's what could have happened. could the bill as it moved along would it be stronger? i thing for a lot of people that don't know a lot of the details of the bill in its final passagt was not nearly as strong as it was when it finally passed so you had. >> and that was unusual for several rights. >> right and that's something i tried to get to. normally civil rights bills would be dream bills.
in the beginning like 57 and 1960 and then they would need wiggled around and. away so when they pass they work separable to enough people. this bill started 30 strong handed number of figures and these were the adjusting folks. clarence mitchell was one of the great unsung heroes in the civil rights history. again certain people know his name but a lot of people don't. he was the head of the washington bureau of the naacp but he was also served as head lobbyist for the civil rights. he was the guy who all through really the 40s but picked up steam in the 50s and 60's with was someone who had the power and influence to move in and talk to obviously liberal senators and representatives but he held a certain amount of charismatic sway with people he opposed. he could go into -- he was fearless. he could talk to richard russell ahead of the southern democrats and he couldn't win richard
russell over but he could maybe work out some agreements. he could at least talk to him in a way that may be whittled down rustles oppositional little bit. he was that kind of the guy and he was instrumental in making the build stronger as it moved through the house. so the bill did not really include any protections or employment discrimination. of course now if you look at the equal and employment and the revolutionary changes is made in the workplace for minorities and women it's a single piece of legislation in and of itself is just one part of the bill. it was not there in the beginning and it was largely because of marshall going in and pushing the bill and affecting that once it was added. so you have those sites pushing and pulling the bill. i really try to tell the story is a complex among characters and among organizations and
fiefdoms within both the movement and the movement writ large. a little musical accompaniment. there is a marching band outside. happens all the time at fort greene. if you are looking for fun a fun place on a wednesday night, marching bands. but yeah to really tell the story i think that really gives you a sense of not only how the bill if all but how legislation works in washington. >> okay that was a question -- [laughter] i feel like dancing. that was a question for the political economy and so forth. now i want to ask the painter question. your book is not highly illustrated.
your book is not highly illustrated. okay. >> usually the musical interlude comes about two-thirds through the program. tonight it's at the very beginning. if you need to get a cough drop. >> gorgeous. so if you had been not writing but drawing or painting or photographing your book, what scenes would you have included, either images that you came across or images that you imagined or things that you thought you might have imagined? >> well let me cheat that a little bit and say that there was one image that when i first read about the scene which is a
story within the book i imagined it in my head and i ended up actually finding the illustratillustrat ion. it has to do with when the bill was in the senate. there was a filibuster going on and you had a number of people in labor and civil rights and religious groups really active in pushing and lobbying this. so there are a group of seminary students here in new york. one was already i guess a franciscan and a student at union theological and a student at jewish theological and they say what can we do as students quickly think the student movement is something that happened in the late 60's but we are really finding stories in the early 60's. of course in the south and around sit-ins even in berkeley.
and so they were very much animated by the idea that students could be activist and of course as religious figures. they felt the need to get involved which is self more in the jewish side. >> let's come back to that. >> yeah obviously so they said let's do a vigil. let's have a vigil and let's do something that is demonstrably ecumenical. we will go to washington have one person from each of these three faiths stand in quiet vigil at the lincoln memorial and they will do it for some hours and then they will be replaced by others and then others and we will keep this going so even though there are only three people at a time there will be dozens and scores and they didn't know how this would turn out. but they said you know what, let's make this happen. so they drove down there and
they have some of the people lined up. within a couple of days people were pouring in from around the country and they had camps set up in the basements of churches around washington and they would take turns. they had a roster sheet and some of them would go up and they had a shuttle going back and forth between morningside heights and a car that someone would drive. morningside heights down to washington and back. there were people coming from chicago and across the south. anyway i have this image and they had a banner that they held that was set as a vigil in support of civil rights. i had this image in my head. it's so evocative of what the movement was about. ..
lot of amendments been presented was strong but it was feared demon to process even when the bill this important is debated there's a huge number of members of the floor and the votes for only recorded by totaled not name see would not be held responsible on the particular amendment you could say i support the bill but that was standard operating procedure. one thing the movement act did for young labor organizers they organized teams with the groups of young people every time there was an important vote
live ago to the friendly representatives you need to get out to the house floor right now it is not as important to vote the right way of this bill. they're very aggressive and ultimately they would tell it down but the idea the there was one woman a union organizer just the image just grabbing the very powerful men. and that to me talks about what that bill was about.
>> that leads to another question. we'll understand why black americans those that are assassinated or chased from home it is understandable why not a southerner but black american that why we are very interested in this. to the benefit of the black americans because you tell the story in the book a lot of other people were very much involved they spent a lot of time in trouble what was in it for the non black
americans? >> it is important to distinguish between the broad support for the of bill kicky matter specific places. in some ways it could not have happened because you have a conflict or for example, through the late '50s the protestant church and the catholic church was a little more socially active and said jewish synagogues but by and large it is really not that active. and when emmitt till was lynched. when it was clearly a crime
by releasing a statement that says we don't want to pass judgment it is for the mississippi authorities. we will see what they say. but that changed because the leadership who people who had come to of the four that were senior people but also a whole degeneration the were in to the rank-and-file also with the church and the structure. with the individual denominations agent to encourage the civil-rights faber experts on the south with the examples martin luther king in yet another way very critical to add to
the long list of what he did for the country inspired others that sawicki was doing. jail it was published in almost every local newsletter. have by then there wrestle ready activism. people saw this and read it and it was determined all over the country. so not only did they feel they had to do something but they had not done anything he has a flavor active as well the you had the rise of a cohort who was the head of the united autoworkers as a leading force by the late fifties or early 60s and was
motivated by civil-rights as an issue but also because he sought it obviously could not continue to be segregated center of society that it was immoral and did not make sense y / workers with the corporation from his point of view? and then of course, the movement largely because of so many years of groundwork there was a lot of good will around the country then things like birmingham and the church bombing they all just added that something has to be done or needs to
be done. people otherwise in the polls showed otherwise did not care one way or the other favored not actively racist but suddenly start to see it not as just a pressing issue but the pressing issue in the bill was carefully crafted one of the necessary feelings of the bill it did not touch a lot of the things that white america felt would be threatened it excluded affirmative-action and did not deal with housing issues all the things that had been a concern for white america
with it was against desegregation. by the time the bill came around there were very cognizant of this and wrote the bill in a way that explicitly did not so a lot of white americans when these did become an issue allow them to push them away and were willing to approach the bill. so white americans in dubuque could say this is not a challenge but a solution to a world issue being played out somewhere else so i feel comfortable to support that it does not on what i see as my right which is very different from the idea of affirmative
action. >> i will ask three more questions than open to the audience. for you surprised by those senators that routinely deprived those to keep down the black constituents? >> yes and no. i grew up in a national certainly people except in the civil rights act but i don't want to save one deign to take away but there was the assumption of race that defined so much of the world you even those interacted with when i was a child so i
could understand the way it defined that was so central to the way to say something like why deprived your constituent because it might benefit blacks? for someone so wedded to white supremacy that is not a bad trade-off also but also the programs they were willing to oppose that would have benefited the working class whites but also blacks these are people who were very wealthy coming from wealthy families hobnob with the wealthy and other wealthy southerners other
than agriculture programs it wasn't really a of big deal looking from a classical lines and the racial lens but i was surprised senators negotiated in 57 and managed to get a big bill down to the small bill through negotiation and compromise this bill put up all to say we will not negotiate but fight to the very end and hope that you give up first and he will not be able to organize a the coalition for the filibuster and that was striking to read the behemoths and apocalyptic notion the sensibility that
they had but use military technology we will fight to the very end and filibuster there was up preliminary before that made one and when they lost the first one there was the effect you may have won the battle but now the war begins. in a do think it was a lasting and that there would probably lose so they have the end of the world sensibility but they were last cut defenders the rest of the country was changing in a way that made it untenable for the south to keep up the jim crow structure. for that they had to go out
i was struck because they are not stupid people obviously very much of burst it racist ideology but at the same time some along with strom thurmond he went to harvard law school of former justice of the north carolina supreme court nevertheless he was willing to go to the mat to carry out the filibuster long after russell was will lead to a given. >> you wrote this is our time. it sounds awfully familiar. [laughter] >> it is true one of the
interesting things to think about what the bill represents it is the end of a certain kind of politics the bipartisan politics where you had conservative democrats and liberal republicans in the more fertile4h!xárzcjy ground for a bipartisan interaction but yet with the ideological defined party than strom thurmond who was on the cusp of becoming republican favorite increasingly open to embrace a as the cost for opportunities to capture the south. and a lot of republicans did not agree but we have to embrace the segregation the
knicks jovian defacto as the cost to capture the south. then you had those white goldwater who were not racist but very driven by the libertarian ideology that's it his mind gave comfort to people like certain and others who said they can all retreat to the suburbs and use it as a cover to fight the next battle. >> once again you sound very prescient. the last two questions from me. one of the echoes i am
hearing is fighting the battles is analogous? on a positive note if americans did it once maybe they can with a similar parallel ichiro. >> there are distinctions gun-control is one to say it is clear in the constitution we have this right in people are more evenly split that they do support reasonable gun-control but at the same
time one of the unintended consequences was to demonstrate how effective politics achaean be this is another way that the 64 act is very much a new beginning of the politics of america demonstrated how effective organized and passionately driven interest groups can be to change policy and the people involved with the civil-rights movement were very committed but now they're the fake grass roots groups but you also have those that are legitimate and and did learn from that
tradition and used the same phrases to understand a great lobbyist at the time when there were not that many but now there are a lot of people who followed in the footsteps of clarence mitchell to wield the same tools and a lot more money. all of these might have developed without the bill but it is very important to look bad it is in the beginning of that era. there is one scholar who writes about the church movement around the civil rights and sees a direct link to those that got their
chops and we're pretty serious about civil rights but were strong with the antiabortion movement and leaders to make it a national issue but on the other hand, the women's movement learned a lot about gay-rights in from the civil-rights movement in general but in particular this experience to turn sentiment into political rap reality are policy changes here is how you get 500 rabbis to washington on a specific day and tell them where to go or where they go after words that was done for the first time in some cases so in some ways i
think we see that every day but we see that of both sides so it is just the dynamics of the moment. would have thought before he and with that mass shooting in connecticut it would have been a mass movement that this is the birmingham of newtown. in this will rally. why is that? because the other side was pretty well organized maybe it just did not capture each enough. >> the institutional basis is not there because you talk about labor estimate
that is key it is hard to underestimate the importance not just the body but the movie -- the money. to provide the speakers and then provided money for the umbrella organization for all those working in tandem you have that with the campaign sometimes but not so much on issues that are central to labor. >> that they have lost the feeling of solidarity.
>> issues like gun control to recognize the uniqueness of the moment. so violent and anti-aesthetical. >> it has been like that 200 years. >> i know. but just to explain why people are willing to come together maybe if not today but i don't know if anything reaches that level it is important that the moment when the country decided this is the most important issue in america history we have to do something.
>> anything you like to read from your book? >> there is one passage that nicely captures a and is very short of what we are talking about when the movement when national and the idea something has to be done something that americans could get behind so the first chapter deals with hall even at the beginning of 63 with a great year for progress things
were down. not a lot of hope. kennedy was not making things happen the country was still coming back from the crisis with normalcy every january to right an essay for the nation where civil-rights had come and where was going it was pretty bleak and was not very hopeful and he says this at the same time planning birmingham's. have first they had to get momentum going that this begins with that. >> the momentum on civil-rights change may
second when the doors of the baptist church of birmingham alabama burst open with dozens of schoolchildren singing we shall overcome the executive director of the leadership conference visionary said the children out id waves. for forcing them in different directions through the park plaza near the church thousands of onlookers were gathered as was a sizable jump the children were marching they were corralled but they kept coming with the officer saw a local preacher standing on the side he said how many more have you got? >> at least 1,000 they were
hardly exaggerated three hours after they had begun resorting to school buses 600 children the next day the police returned this time the fire department with fire hoses and and dogs. the marchers were hit at first but when they determined to refuse to retreat they ratcheted up full blast 100 pounds of pressure. many recent but several children would not budge when the retreating children saw their example than the canine units keep after them. that afternoon martin luther king sent a telegram will you permit this violence in in birmingham to threaten our lives have denied our rights? yes kennedy did not result -- respond that they did he was watching like the rest
thinking of an 11 the way things moved quite rapidly and wondering if croesus is drama that captures the imagination with the mark from democracy? >> i think there is a strong case it is necessary but not sufficient the groundwork needs to be laid but to go back to newtown you simply do not have organizations hatter in society to take advantage of. by the time of crisis of 63 maybe people were not even aware before but there was
so strong organizational core ready to take advantage of this but the labor was primed to take a vintage. then the series oftwwdrwqto thee pushed things forever. then there are also things or crisis you could point to like the affordable care act that you remember as the important piece of information so you would have had a lot of great society legislation he probably needed johnson to
be there kennedy would not push those but i think johnson could have done it without the president. precedent. it is a good question. >> two-seat income inequality? >> what would the crisis be? >> but that brings up the progress of legislation something that did spur certain labor but the pure food and drug act was not the result of the journalism
but not one thing as erratic as birmingham to force the change but now that i think about it. [laughter] sometimes. >> but this is a historian refers start to talk i agree then there were you taught the lesson i think. [laughter] there is such a history of civil rights with black civil rights with the infrastructure that goes back to the first world war
so it is not necessarily the big crisis but to be:existent and with infrastructure. >> in those terms you can say what do you mean there is no crisis? but compared to the march on washington is the movement through the infrastructure that could create a crisis for politicians they had a choice to make so they had consequences they did not want to deal with. >> that is a good point not so much there was this organization then somebody
else took in action but there was a structure in place to bring them to a head. when birmingham happens first college try to get the attention of legislators here is somebody who had been working for decades at that point and would say later always hoping something would come along and there it was he could take that in the birmingham church bombing september 63 where the bill was already in congress with a number of changes that could have been
made but were not sure with the more liberal congressman but the bombing happens and right away they were in there in the offices of the kennedy administration the leaders of the house to say he has to act now with church groups and a coordinated effort to say wilkens was the head of the naacp to say every organization the next day said it respectful terms we have to take advantage of this to use the momentum to get xyz a very specific agenda so not so much the
passive organization out there but the environment for legislators to take the bill but more of the interaction with the agency on the part to be ready for a crisis. >> the bill is thought of as one of the old p.j.'s greatest accomplishments could you talk about what you saw in his role? >> on the one hand honestly he gets a little too much credit in the history people think he created the bill
basically it was what would pass the house tuned of the senate. -- in the senate there was always the justice department and lobbying organizations in the coalition that supported the bill that had the players there already. for johnson he did not have to do very much and very wisely he did not say i will take this over after he left the senate he had a lot of enemies. he was not -- he was the master but when he left they said good riddance. he knew that he would make a certain number of people angry so i think the field marshal for the bill and
humphrey have no control but johnson does not give enough credit for which i think it is his greater legacy is from the very beginning he took a strong moral public stance behind the complete bill because we think of him as the guy who compromises and that is what he did on the bill and what people expected but when he was up with a joint session of congress he said at the very beginning the legacy of kennedy we have to pass a civil rights bill but there is a moral urgency here.
we need the bill to get this through i won the american people to get behind me. with every public statement he made every speech or democratic convention and even in private i will refuse to accept compromise and do everything i can to force the house to stay in session until it passed the bill. that took a lot of guts where yes he probably needed the black vote and the liberal vote the there for some easy ways rather than put his weight behind a bill that was not guaranteed passage. he was not known as the speaker he thought of it is something he did on the stump that the civil right
speeches he knocks it out of the park anybody who doubts his commitment wednesday moved into though whitehouse a lot of them are on a new tube to hear the speeches that are incredibly moving. i think he misunderstood and deserves more credit than he gets but for different reasons. >> how does that affect the passage of the voting rights act? >> didn't actually represent >> the voting rights act for
that reason partly you had a number of southerners that i think were transformed by the experience of the civil-rights act including al gore sr. and of moderately younkers senator who saw this one step past was not so bad face of the emergent south that was biracial and he realized a five-year another 20 years i cannot be voting against civil rights. but floating rates was somewhat different it made it easier but something very specific with that context
of the selma march and john said gave another of his very moving speeches where he finished eat each -- each to say we shall overcome you. and this sequel that is the guaranteed hit. that said as well as a general conservative turn by the public in general not intel 68 you had the civil-rights bill. i don't think one was even attempted. 68 that also had a tough
time in arguably passed in the end because of king's assassination. the bill was hanging by a thread and once again johnson and senators said to honor him we have to get this bill through. that was much smaller and more controversial but nevertheless a smaller bill. unfortunately we see this today the sentiments produced by the civil-rights act allows people in the cell's protective a to say we're done we took care of it. everything else is just
interest group if you talk about civil rights and when will white people get there? what about law and order and small government? and strom thurmond was the leader to turn the debate and richard nixon as well to turn the issue to say we have done that. i think we're still very much in the throes of that to say by early 2010 you can have a debate where we are now but the last 50 years the unintended and unfortunate consequences of the landmark legislation.
>>. >> very early in the book something that is subtle is he expanded the committee'smkkñ of mere mortals and what is your perception how much of this actually goes on in washington or how people try to get things done? i cannot over legal after them. >> there is a lot of that as a political guy i found fun but the subtle background stuff certainly the negotiations of the trade off but even the things you
have to filibuster that some of them were personal friends with johnson or they saw in a vintage not by filibuster but to say today we will not force the quorum call very demand everyone has to be in the senate right now so you could say i want to do that nobody will notice that i didn't do but i will tell you or i would propose this amendment you know, that i bush is going to buy a boat or i will propose an amendment so you see that looking at the senator from louisiana
playing both sides someone who was young enough and smart enough to know he had to be over there at some point but he had a constituency and political loyalties in definitely played both sides to help move the bill lost he was not the ideologue like strom thurmond favor not willing to talk to keep that ideological purity to negotiate. it is interesting that fulbright almost, almost dropped his support and there are rivers and
sustained -- unsubstantiated he was a crack -- promised secretary of state and al gore was another but fulbright had one of his staffers from the justice department where he would send details to say we go do this today in fulbright would say forget what we just said. [laughter] and then those there were very few to discuss this because it was very hush hush but you cannot tell anybody what i am about to tell you but this is what happened but it is cool to see that is what is going on
certainly that experience with vietnam for anything but at least he himself felt he was strapped and could not pull out of vietnam had to go deeper then he saw the public turned against him those idiosyncrasies to call it character flaw or details he exhibited were rectified as he assumed power with the april 4th he appeared at riverside church just
incredibly deep in the entire country with his vietnam war. but has the war went on king became increasingly vocal and by 67 he broke with the president with tax returns and the fbi was already wiretapping he had the fbi turned loose on them. because he personally felt he was a traitor this could not possibly be just an opinion but something personal that he had broken
the trust or friendship. call it what you will but with the stress of the job that is something that cannot be separated this is who the man was and it is a very tragic story. >> looking at johnson as president and how much he did. [laughter] would you say he was the most significant president howard would you look at
obama? [laughter] >> i would disagree with your phrasing because i was going to ask about the pitchers over and over again as commemorated with the civil-rights act the focus has opened up but that image of the history not so much medicare or the war on poverty for the benefit of black america americans in
but now obama. [laughter] >> i think it is far too early to say his legacy will not be individual legislation birthings he did not do what ends up becoming the historical significance with but to term president as an inspiration to the world and will be someone who will be looked back to have a symbolic signal. and that is very difficult